Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. That's what happened when I flipped through the pages of a new book that came in my office mail.
"Cruizin' North County, Remembering Our 'Happy Days' in a St. Louis Suburb" covers the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. And for someone like me, who was a child in the '50s, a teenager in the '60s and a parent in the '70s - all in North County - the pictorial book spoke volumes.
The scrapbook of sorts was the brainchild of two former North Countians who spent their youth and early adult lives cruising the Circle Steak n' Shake, swimming at North Shore, bowling at Suburban Lanes and dancing at Club Imperial. They enjoyed family outings at Chain of Rocks and Holiday Hills amusement park, and Teen Towns at locations like St. Jerome Parish and St. Jude's Hall.
For most of us, those days were the best of times. We roamed the streets freely and gathered at the North Drive-In or at parks for fun-filled evenings. We traveled on weekends between Bellefontaine Neighbors, Jennings, Spanish Lake, Riverview, Walnut Park and Baden, enjoying our youth. Northland and River Roads shopping centers were the popular hangouts on Saturdays.
Authors Craig Kaintz and Bill Kasalko grew up on the same street in Bellefontaine Neighbors, but because of their difference in age, didn't know each other. Then in 1980, they met through business and before long, their memories of North County became the cement that bonded their relationship.
"Whenever we got together, we would reminisce about North County," Kaintz said. "I said we ought to write a book about it and fill it with photos."
For several years, Kaintz and Kasalko searched for the photos to capture those memories. While they found many photos at the Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the journey for some of the book's unique shots became memorable in itself - like the photo they wanted from Ponticello's restaurant off Bellefontaine Road.
"You don't know all the talking I had to do to talk the owner into letting me make a copy of the photo on the wall when the restaurant looked like it did when we were growing up," Kaintz said.
Some leads took them down interesting paths. When they were talking to someone with the St. Louis County Parks Department about a photo of Fort Bellefontaine, Kaintz mentioned that they were looking for a photo of Holiday Hills, which had been located at Brown and Natural Bridge roads near the airport.
"He told me about 'Carnival Bill,' who used to work at Holiday Hills and now volunteered at Jefferson Barracks," Kaintz said.
"Carnival Bill" not only had some photos of the amusement park, he also had great stories to share about those times, he said.
Kaintz said he and Kasalko wanted to find a St. Louis publisher, which wasn't easy. But after several attempts, they convinced Jeff Fister with Virginia Publishing Co. that the book was a keeper.
The authors have three book signings scheduled at Barnes & Noble: 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 22 at Mid Rivers Mall, 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 5 at Chesterfield Mall and 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Shoppes at Cross Keys. The book retails for $19.95 and is available in local bookstores or at Amazon.com and STL-Books.com.
I can't wait to share these memories with my children so they can once again say, "Oh, Mom." But isn't reminiscing about the "good old days" one of the rites of getting older?